Experts say it’s time to ramp up emergency preparedness since there may be more earthquakes on the way. But what many Pasadenans don’t know is there is free emergency preparedness training available through the city.
With training for the community emergency response team, known as CERT, volunteers learn how to help themselves and their community, under the guidance of firefighters.
And this training goes beyond merely knowing what to pack in an emergency. This disaster preparedness training encompasses caring for others and identifying potential problems before they happen.
Carolyn Seitz, a volunteer at Pasadena Fire Department who is the community emergency response team coordinator, explained there are many facets to emergency preparedness, said
She said training has been on the minds of many locals since the string of recent earthquakes. With the training, there are plenty of myths to dispel. One is having three days of supplies on hand in the event of a real emergency.
“It’s always actually been a little longer than three days,” Seitz said. “But sometimes people think that if you tell people they need to be prepared for a week or longer, they’ll get afraid and won’t do anything. I am inclined to think that it’s better to tell people to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Everybody should be prepared and they should be prepared for a minimum of 10 days to as much as three weeks to take care of themselves in the event we have a major catastrophic event.”
The training used by Seitz and her team is highly valued by the community and gets high points from the City.
“Our CERT team, led by Carolyn Seitz, have donated countless hours to ensuring the preparedness of our community,” said Lisa Derderian, emergency management coordinator for the City of Pasadena. “They are a small but mighty group and are always there to assist in planning, responding and helping in recovery efforts. Carolyn is the glue that has kept this group together and she puts her heart and soul into their success.”
The community emergency response team was originally developed by the Los Angeles City Fire Department years ago and was adopted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The CERT training is a 21- to 25-hour class that takes place usually over two Saturdays and two weeknights, Seitz said. Sometimes they will offer the class on three weekdays or four weekdays. She said it all depends on the need.
“We teach people what to do in a mass casualty incident and the goal of CERT is to do the greatest good for the greatest number in the shortest period of time,” she said.
Rapid Evaluation of Injury
Seitz said: “That means in a disaster setting, there are only two minutes to evaluate whether someone has died from their injuries or whether they are equivalent to the ‘walking wounded,’ whether they have scrapes and bruises or bumps, or they’re not injured.”
“Then there are people who can be delayed for some short period of time,” she said. “And then the red tarp is the tarp that designates people who need immediate attention because they have some life-threatening issue unless they get treatment in a short period of time.”
“We teach people how to triage and how to treat the three major killers, the three things that are most likely to kill you quickly. You know what those are? Blocked airway, arterial bleed, and shock. Shock will kill you quickly unless someone who’s around you recognizes the signs of shock and can treat you immediately.”
Evaluate Property and Surroundings
In CERT training people are also taught how to do a size-up in assessment, she said.
“So [we teach] how to look around your house to make sure that everything is okay and then in your neighborhood,” she said. “We are asking people to go out into their neighborhood, to make sure that their neighborhood is safe and secure once they’ve taken care of themselves and their family. We want them to know whether at first inspection of a house from the outside, whether it looks like you can enter it or you shouldn’t. We teach them how to know when you can and when you can’t.”
For instance, she said it needs to be noted if a house is off its foundation or if the doors are jammed shut.
“In the disaster medical portion, we teach people how to do that head to toe assessment of someone to determine whether they’re suffering from any parts or are all of the three things that likely will kill you quickly,” she said. “And then we triage them. Then we teach people how to do the rescue portion of the search and rescue function. And we teach people how to do an actual search inside and outside of a structure.”
So how does one start with training?
“There are two things,” she said. “One is if you wanted to get your whole block together, we have a program called ‘Map Your Neighborhood.’ That’s a two-hour training and we would train you and then you can train your neighborhood. It’s a relatively simple thing to do. Because we want people to understand that first responders, professional first responders, may not be able to get to them for 72 hours — maybe longer depending on how bad the damage is — we want neighbors to be prepared to look after each other for a period of time.”
The Map Your Neighborhood plan is good because, together with neighbors, people can get the tools to use to figure out where the risks are in the area.
“Where our power lines are, because everybody should know where power lines are, because you don’t want to step out your door into a puddle that has a live wire in it,” she said.
But in addition to learning to identify hazards, learning to treat others and observing hazardous properties and situations, the training enables people to look out for themselves. And that means always having a “go” bag ready.
“It’s all the things that you need to take care of yourself,” she said. “You might have a change of clothes in it. You might have more comfortable shoes, socks, underwear, flashlight, hard hat, goggles. So you have eye protection because if we have a high wind event, you’re going to want to protect your eyes from flying debris. And then snacks, things that will sustain you.”
Seitz said each person could have two or three bags and in childrens’ bags be sure to pack a couple of toys, games or beloved plush dolls or stuffed animals.
For more information about CERT visit the City of Pasadena Fire Department online at:
and the Federal site Ready.gov: https://www.ready.gov